Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book-to-Movie Adaptations

With all this excitement about the last Harry Potter movie coming out, I've been thinking a lot about movie adaptations of books. Obviously, there are some that do it better than others (for the most part, the Harry Potter movies are not my favorite adaptations, although there have been things I've enjoyed about them, and I liked 6 and both halves of 7).

But I don't want to talk about adaptations that went poorly; I want to talk about adaptations I enjoy. Interestingly enough, for probably all of the book-to-movie adaptations I really like, I saw the movie first, whether because I didn't know it was a book or simply hadn't gotten around to it yet. This approach makes me far less likely to throw things at the screen and far more likely to sit back and enjoy. For some reason, I'm far more reasonable about changes made in adaptations when I see the movie first; then I can simply compare it to the real thing in the books and go "oh, I see why they did that."

On to the movies!

Bet you were expecting this one, right? Well, Peter Jackson's LORD OF THE RINGS films are probably the only example of book-to-movie adaptations where I prefer the movie to the book. *ducks flying objects and cries of blasphemy!* Yes, I know that probably makes me a terrible fantasy fan. But these movies were just adapted SO WELL. These films took a classic fantasy epic of grand proportions and made it human. I think so many of the characters really shine in the films. For example, Aragorn is actually given a character arc, and he becomes a relateable, human character instead of a heroic archetype. I love these films and have watched them dozens of times. The casting is superb, the music wonderful, the detail that went into every aspect of filming amazing. All I can say is that I cannot WAIT for The Hobbit.

I love love love love this adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I use it as a writing soundtrack. I put it on as background noise while doing homework. I've put it on to fall asleep to. The casting is excellent. I've read the book four or five times now (and am currently rereading it) and I can't read it without hearing these actors' voices in my head. I don't care for the new adaptation for a couple of reasons, but like I said, not going to talk about the ones I don't like. This one I do like. If THE LORD OF THE RINGS is an example of how to make changes and do it properly, this adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is an example of how to put a book on screen.

Plus, who doesn't love Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy? Yeah. I thought so. :P

If I didn't like Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet, I loved her in ATONEMENT. This seems like the perfect book to adapt for film to me; they do so much in this movie with multiple points of view, and it illustrates the point of the book beautifully. It's very easy to see what is really happening versus what Briony thinks is happening, and the dramatic irony is just done perfectly. It's also another movie with an amazing soundtrack (I just realized that all for all four of the movies I'm going to talk about, I own the soundtrack. Hmm). I like how they did the ending as well; it's different from the book, but we still get the same punch from it (and what a punch!).

I love STARDUST. The way this differs from the book is mostly in tone; the book is much darker and creepier, typical Neil Gaiman style, while the movie takes all the lighthearted parts and brings them to the front. The result is a fun and absolutely adorable movie that's definitely good for warm fuzzies. (Conversely I finished the book on a bus and felt a little bit like crying.) The book and the movie are like mirror images of each other - one dark and one light, the same but different. (This is not to say that the book is wholly dark and scary; it's Neil Gaiman, the current British master of mixing the creepy with the subtly funny and sarcastic.) I adore the book and the movie equally, but for different reasons. Again, another example of how to make changes in an adaptation and do it properly.

Those are my top favorite book-to-movie adaptations. I do have a few other favorite movies that were once books, such as THE PRINCESS BRIDE and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON... but I've never actually read those, so they don't go in the post. Heh.

What are your favorite adaptations of books? What books do you think should be adapted to film?


  1. You haven't read Princess Bride??? OMG you must. It is HILARIOUS. as funny as the movie (though it is one of the few movies I like more than the book, just because... Westley. mmmm... ahem).

    I loved Stardust too, because like you mentioned, the book and movie have completely different tones, and give you completely different sensations when you finish... But not gonna lie, I hated everything about Atonement. Book, movie, BLARGH. that might just be my weirdness though. <.<

  2. Haha, no, it's not just you. I made my roommates watch Atonement at school and they hated it as well. I thoroughly enjoy it, though. :)

  3. I've never read The Lord of the Rings. I saw the films and enjoyed those, but I just couldn't get into the books. I did read and enjoy The Hobbit overall though. I'm actually a huge fan of HP adaptations. I think they did fairly well...there is just SO much in the books. Plus, I see movies as a seperate thing than the book. It's nice, and it's a part of the overall "world" but it's never going to be exactly the same.

    As for my own favorites? I don't really know! I feel most films these days were books, but I haven't always READ the books. LOL


  4. One of my favourite adaptations is To Kill a Mockingbird. I think both the movie (Gregory Peck... mmm....) and the book both give equivalent exchange rates for their respective artforms.